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Next-Gen Airbus TV Broadcast Satellite Is Ready, Awaits to Be Sent Into Orbit

Airbus finished the construction of the latest TV broadcast satellite, the Eurostar Neo Hotbird 13F, which is now ready to head on to... Cape Canaveral. The telecom satellite will be launched from Florida and accompanied by an identical spacecraft, the Hotbird 13G, later this year.
Hotbird 13F, Airbus' First Eurostar Neo Class of Satellites 6 photos
Hotbird 13FA TV Sat in SpaceBuilding of a TV SatelliteSatellites orbiting EarthSatellite basic operation infographic
Together, the two satellites can broadcast upwards of one thousand TV channels to an audience of 135 million viewers in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The two new generation telecom satellites are the latest and greatest in sat-TV technology and will take a position in their geostationary orbits at 13 degrees east.

Hotbird 13F's state-of-the-art broadcast equipment will enable it to replace three older Eutelsat satellites. This marks the debut of a new era of satellite TV, the Eurostar Neo, a superior telecom craft in nearly all aspects compared to the older Eurostar sats.

The new satellite built by Airbus can have higher payloads and better energy efficiency, thanks to the all-electric design. Five years ago, Airbus made the world's first Electric Orbit Rising satellite, a type of spacecraft that needs far less fuel than chemical-powered ones. Full electric propulsion means the traditional chemical propellant is replaced by xenon gas. Ionized and accelerated in an electric field, xenon is ejected at very high speeds for navigating and aligning the satellite. All this is achieved solely with the energy produced by the vehicle's solar panels.

The HOTBIRD 13F and 13G are capable of more than two tons of payload and need 22 kW of spacecraft power to operate at total capacity. Due to the electric thrust technology's launch mass being just 4,500 kg. Thanks to Electric Orbit Raising (ERO), the quantity of fuel needed drops by 80% (since xenon is a very light gas, it weighs much less than conventional chemical power).

There is a price to pay for this rocket-science level increase in fuel efficiency. While electric satellites are more straightforward, lighter, and safer, the electric-only thrust is less potent than the old one, so the time from launch to orbit positioning is proportionally expanded, from one week to anywhere between three to six months.

Still, the time-for-efficiency trade-in is well worth the costs because Electric Orbit Raising technology lowers the mass. Therefore, the launch price decreases since it correlates directly with the satellite's total weight. Alternatively, the fuel mass economy can be substituted by other payloads, meaning the craft is apt for more complex missions, either in the distance from earth or operational capabilities.

Until now, all the Airbus geostationary telecommunications satellites put together make for over a millennium of combined successful operations.

Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.

 Download: First Airbus Eurostar Neo satellite ready for shipment to launch site (PDF)


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